West Virginia

III. Scope of protection

Note: West Virginia’s shield law provides journalists with a nearly absolute reporter’s privilege to refuse to disclose the identity of confidential sources, and documents or other information that could identify confidential sources, in civil, criminal, administrative, and grand jury proceedings. A court may compel disclosure of such information only if “necessary to prevent imminent death, serious bodily injury or unjust incarceration.” W. Va. Code § 57-3-10. The statute does not limit more expansive constitutional protections under Hudok

A. Shield law statute

Note: Effective June 10, 2011, West Virginia enacted a shield law, W. Va. Code § 57-3-10, to protect reporters from having to disclose confidential source information except in a limited number of circumstances. Under the statute, a reporter may not be compelled to: 
“(1) Testify in any civil, criminal, administrative or grand jury proceeding in any court in this state concerning the confidential source of any published or unpublished information obtained by the reporter in the course of the above described activities without the consent of the confidential source, unless such testimony is necessary to prevent imminent death, serious bodily injury or unjust incarceration; or

II. Authority for and source of the right

Note: Section 57-3-10, West Virginia’s statutory shield law provides a qualified privilege from disclosing confidential source information. The statute preserves the protections afforded under Hudok, as the legislation mandates that existing protections afforded journalists and others under the federal and West Virginia Constitutions remain intact. This protects the Hudok holding and ensures that journalists continue to be privileged to withhold their newsgathering materials, a protection not provided under the shield law. 

I. Introduction: History & Background

Note: In 2011, West Virginia enacted a statutory shield law providing strong protection for reporters to refuse to disclose the identity of confidential sources, and documents or other information that could identify confidential sources. W. Va. Code § 57-3-10.

Generally speaking, the status of the reporter's privilege in West Virginia is strong. Although the contours of the privilege are not as developed as they are through caselaw in other states, and there is no statutory shield law, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia has fashioned a strong privilege to protect reporters, especially in civil cases. Because of the strength of the privilege, incidences of reporters being jailed or fined over privilege issues have been exceedingly rare in West Virginia.

Letter to West Virginia Capitol Police

May 16, 2017

The Reporters Committee wrote a letter on behalf of a coalition of national media organizations objecting to the arrest of reporter Dan Heyman in the West Virginia capitol, for shouting questions to Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway and HHS Secretary Tom Price during a visit.

West Virginia

Date: 
August 1, 2012

Summary of statute(s): An individual who is a party to either an in-person conversation or electronic communication, or who has the consent of one of the parties to the communication, can lawfully record it or disclose its contents, unless the person is doing so for the purpose of committing a criminal or tortious act. W. Va. Code § 62-1D-3 (2012).

West Virginia

Date: 
May 1, 2012

 

Delinquency and dependency proceedings: The public is generally excluded from juvenile court proceedings in West Virginia, although the court may admit people with a legitimate interest in the proceedings. In delinquency hearings, individuals whose presence is requested by the parties also may attend. W. Va. Code Ann. § 49-5-2 (West 2012); W. Va. Child Abuse and Neglect Proceedings R. 6a.

Omitting exculpatory detail could make report false

Kristen Rasmussen | Libel | Feature | May 19, 2011
Feature
May 19, 2011

A West Virginia daycare owner’s claims against a local television station that reported “serious allegations of abuse and neglect” at the facility, but omitted the fact that the single incident involved child-on-child contact, should have been decided by a jury, a federal appeals court recently held.

Separate look at each charge needed to overcome privilege

Kristen Rasmussen | Reporter's Privilege | Feature | May 9, 2011
Feature
May 9, 2011

A West Virginia trial judge erred when she ordered a newspaper to reveal the identities of anonymous sources and documents in a defamation suit against the paper, the state’s highest court recently ruled.

The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia returned the case to the lower court, which must identify and analyze each allegedly defamatory statement and the confidential source who made the statement separately.

West Virginia acting governor signs reporter shield law

Kristen Rasmussen | Reporter's Privilege | Feature | April 6, 2011
Feature
April 6, 2011

West Virginia earlier this week became the 40th state, along with the District of Columbia, to provide statutory protection for subpoenaed reporters when acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed the state shield bill.

The law will take effect on June 10.